Du Barry Was A Lady (1943)
This film! Gene Kelly, Red Skelton, and Lucille Ball (who is a most epic redhead in color, I have to say) star in this musical where a hat check boy busts his head and dreams he is Louis XV, and Lucy is his Madame Du Barry. Sex work is, obviously, never mentioned. I mean, this film was made in 1943 y’all, I’d be expecting quite a lot if I needed them to say she was what she was. But. BUT. Anyone who knows their Ho-story knows that Madame Du Barry was a Courtesan. Courtesans fucked for cash . . . among other things, obviously.
I love that I found this but I only knew what I had stumbled onto because I’ve been researching courtesans for the past couple of weeks. Du Barry was, apparently, a bit vapid, and not really interested in politics like Madame Pompadour who came before her. She was a big fan of jewels and dresses though. I am too; we have so much in common! Something about courtesans fascinates me. Is it the tales of broads being brought to the table in cream? Being the subject of beautiful paintings? Having quotes like these survive hundreds of years after I’ve died? It could be all of those things and more. There’s so little information on these women, beyond the Wikipedia pages and these books, and a few sites that pretty much all say the same thing. I personally do not see the big difference between being a courtesan and being a sugar baby. In fact, I really feel like they’re the same thing. One name is just less fancy. I’m all about being fancy though.
To me, Lucy was a sex worker in her non-dream manifestation as well because she plays a Sugar Baby, initially, anyway. I love older films for that. Loads of women played that role in these films, the woman after cash and not love, or forced to be because of her circumstances. They generally end up with love, because that’s how these films need to end, right? I mean, they’re made by men and these guys need to believe it’s love and not funds that motivate these arrangements. I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think that the studio heads, producers, casting directors, etc., probably had sugar babies, do you? Admitting that they are after money and not love is enough for me, though, I don’t need them to follow through. Besides, the fella they end up with is usually set (or makes good) because they needed to reinforce gender roles for the men, too! If women need to be “dependent” then men must step up as “providers”. That’s part of why I don’t understand the way men cling to that shit—y’all lose too! It’s a two way street. If women are oppressed the men are oppressed because they have to keep oppressing us.
Enough about stifling gender roles, let’s talk about this movie!
So, the idea is that May (Lucille) can’t (but obviously does) love this nightclub singer because he’s poor. He sings her a song in her dressing room that makes her say she loves him, and she regrets it instantly. The hat check guy tells her she doesn’t need to worry about love when they’re on the subway, that it’s for common folk, and a bit later he gets drugged and hallucinates that he is Louis XV. He’s played by Red Skelton, so you can imagine how ridiculous all of this is while it’s happening. The set gets extremely fancy in his dream. Like, too fancy. Child, the beds are covered in quilted silk, the walls are covered in fabric, and I am in love with the furniture! Love, I tell you!
Du Barry (Lucille) lives in a mansion, of course, it’s gorgeous, of course, and Louis seems to have bought it for her. She rejects his advances though, and has been rejecting him according to how he’s acting. All his gifts cannot sway her. She seems to adore the man who is supposed to drive her out of France for being wined, dined and bejeweled on the taxpayers dime. Kind of reminds me of this story, but way fancier. He wakes up before the man she actually loves gets beheaded, which was kind of a letdown. I thought it would be cute to see Gene Kelly get out of that jam. Once he returns to real life (in a scene that reminds me of “The Wizard Of Oz” because 1. the guy who played the cowardly Lion is in this film and 2. they (including the Cowardly Lion guy) were all gathered around him like Dorothy’s family.
I totally recommend this film for people who like silly musicals, bitches in feathers, and watching Gene Kelly shake his ass. I like all of those things so I was super glad to happen upon this film.
This musical number too, for the colors, costumes, and Lucy in a mini-pannier. I want those purple gloves, or gloves in that purple, both would work.
Find it here, and on DVD no less.